By Will Chavez
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Navy medical corpsman James Layton of Riverbank, Calif., was killed in action on Sept. 8 in eastern Afghanistan while aiding a wounded U.S. Marine.

The Cherokee Nation citizen was among four men killed by small arms fire. All four men were at the front of a column of Marines heading on foot into a small village in the eastern Kunar Province, near the Pakistani border.

Eyewitness reports from Marines said Layton, 22, apparently had been applying aid to a wounded Marine lieutenant when they came under a volley of insurgent fire, killing them and the two other Marines. Nine Afghan security force members were also killed in the battle. Three other Americans and 19 Afghans were wounded.

In honor of Layton’s sacrifice, the CN flew its flags at half-staff. Deputy Chief Joe Grayson, a veteran of the Vietnam War, and others sent their condolences to the Layton family.

“We called and let them know we were thinking of them, and we wanted to give all the respect to their son that he deserved. It’s just always sad when we lose someone over there, whether they were Cherokee or not,” Grayson said. “A lot of times we don’t think of our veterans until something like this happens. Here we’re aware of the sacrifices our tribal members and non-tribal members are making over in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The tribe also sent a tribal flag to the family, which was flown during Layton’s funeral service on Sept. 17.

Grayson said the family called to say they appreciated the tribe’s sympathy and thoughts.

“We, the family of James Ray Layton want to send our sincere thank you for making sure that we had a Cherokee Nation flag for display during our time of loss as well as the personal calls made to the family upon hearing of his passing,” read a family statement. “We are truly overwhelmed at all the support that has been given us. We have been made to feel that James was truly a part of the Cherokee Nation, like family. Words cannot express what that has meant to our entire family.”

California Gov. Schwarzenegger also issued a statement of condolence on Layton’s death and said flags at the capitol would be flown at half-staff in his memory.

During the battle, about 100 Afghan soldiers, border officers, Marines and U.S. Army trainers were pinned down as insurgents unleashed gunfire and rockets. They were on a training mission with Afghan forces, who were to search the village for weapons and then meet village elders under an agreement to establish government authority in the area. Insurgent forces had set up positions in the village and in the mountains on either side and apparently attacked as the men reached the first compound.

Layton was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, to train with a Marine Corps unit for a mission in Afghanistan. He had been in Afghanistan about two months.

Source: Cherokee Phoenix

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